Monday, May 18, 2015

Lilac Laura

It's lilac season, and this year I got to celebrate in style. On Mother's Day my son presented me with a lovely, heartfelt card, which included a surprise invitation to the Harvard Arboretum's Lilac Walk. How did I not know about this place?

It wasn't news to my son that I had a love affair with lilacs, which dated back to my childhood. Every Spring, our side yard would be bursting with tones of purple and white, and bushes that were too high to reach. The scent was amazing, and impossible to forget. "Lilac Laura" became my CB handle, when my Dad got a CB radio for his car. It is still not quite clear why he needed a CB radio, but it was exciting nonetheless. Being able to communicate remotely with total strangers was a relatively new thing back then, and clearly a sign of things to come. It sounds scary, but we communicate with strangers all the time, through social media, and our fascination with peeking into the lives of others has taken over much of our down time. I was happy to have a reason to get away from the hustle and bustle of constant communication, and take in the beauty of the lilacs in season.


While visiting this amazing place, with a lilac display like no other, we discovered many other themed gardens that were begging to be enjoyed. Before we left, we were already talking about a return visit, as we didn't have time to see everything, and I was not wearing the best pair of shoes for walking.

Mother's Day is a time to be honored by those whose lives you have left an imprint on. It is nice to know that my children know how to get to the heart of what I love.

entrance exam

A home's entrance says a lot about a person. This Gloucester client was looking for a custom design that would celebrate her new seaside home, and provide another reason to go "overboard," with all things beach related. Since she would be hosting an upcoming wedding shower for her daughter, my client was hoping to show off her new home to family and friends. Isn't it funny how a gathering of any kind can help to get your butt in gear?

This photo of the outdoor space, supplied by the client, made me think that we were going to need some plants with height for the urn designs. A site visit, including a tour of the inside of the client's beautiful home, provided me with a pretty good idea of what she had in mind.

An elegant and understated use of greens and touches of white was the perfect complement against a teal green door, and the classic black urns didn't hurt either. Using the hog brush wreath as a base, I selected a combo of faux grasses, hydrangea, trailing succulents, queen annes lace, an upscale burlap-y ribbon along with some foraged elements including driftwood, starfish, and a clam shell from my personal collection.

The blue crab door knocker just takes it up a knock (get it?), making this entrance exam an A+.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

speaking of florals

astrid photography and model Cari Funkhouser

I designed this bouquet at David Beahm's fabulous South Bronx studio in New York. If you would like to read about my experiences in NYC at the 5th Annual Chapel Designers Conference, follow this link to Laura Thomson Design.

Friday, April 10, 2015

art-in-bloom: making connections

The concept of art-in-bloom has many facets, one of which is the collaborative connection that happens between artists. It's about the celebration of art, and the sharing of media for the purpose of making an artistic statement. This year officially marks my tenth year as a member of the Lynnfield Garden Club, and my tenth year participating in the club's art-in-bloom program. I owe much to my experiences with art-in-bloom, as it was that which lead me to floral school and to the launch of my business, Laura Thomson Design. A love connection, in the words of Chuck Woolery, that was made rather unexpectedly.

Every year I talk about the process of art-in-bloom, and how it always begins with the inspiration, aka the painting or piece of art. When it's time to choose a painting, all the beautiful pieces are laid out for the club members to see. Garden club members pick numbers from a hat, and the selection process begins. I was lucky number one this year.

Karen Duggan | "A Fall Walk"

I was instantly drawn to this beautifully saturated water color by Karen Duggan, called "A Fall Walk." After speaking with Karen on the phone, I learned that this was her first attempt at painting, and that her creative background was in the art of needlepoint (6th generation, to be exact). My curiosity was piqued. I couldn't help but think that her unique perspective must have played a huge role in how she interpreted her inspiration. Karen also talked about her connection to The American Needlepoint Guild, which has provided her the opportunity to travel the world, teaching, lecturing and judging needlepoint work. As our conversation continued, my mind was abuzz with questions. What are the current trends in needlepoint?  Is it a popular medium among the younger set? I had to find out.

Coral and Tusk

Coral and Tusk

In the throes of another sleepless night, I came across the website of Coral and Tusk. The serious creativity of their name, and the meaning behind it, immediately brought out my jealous side. The tablescape design was like a pressed-flower extravaganza of eye candy, and it drew me in from the moment I entered the site. I was amazed by the breadth of their work, and suddenly realized that I was most definitely out-of-the-loop. Have I been sleeping on the job, or have I not been paying enough attention? I may have been stuck in my thinking that this art form had ended with my grandmother's generation, and was not something that had clearly come along with the times. Shame on me! To say that Coral and Tusks designs were engaging would be an understatement. I connected especially with the natural aesthetic of their work. I, too, am a friend to the animals. Although, I may never pick up a needle, 'cause the eye sight just isn't what it used to be, that doesn't diminish the fact that I can truly appreciate the intricacy of these designs, the expert craftsmanship, and the attention to detail, obvious in every tug and pull of a stitch. Please read about the story of Coral and Tusk, here.

I almost forgot that I'm supposed to be writing about art-in-bloom in this post! I suddenly found myself lost in the desire to learn about the art of needlepoint, thanks to my conversation with Karen. Once I have my painting/inspiration in-hand, the process is pretty much the same from year to year. I start by pinning up the image someplace where I can spend time admiring its qualities, and considering the overall feeling that it invokes. I then start to think about the container. When I saw this West Elm collection, created by the talented floral designer, Amy Merrick, the search was over. The sandstone compote and bedside vase had the most unique shading, similar to that of a cross-section of a tree. It was the perfect beginning to my story. To change things up a bit, I decided to create a grouping or vignette of vases for my interpretation this year, putting to use some of the fun ideas I learned while in New York from Naomi DeManana, Senior Style Editor for Martha Stewart Weddings.

Art in Bloom begins on Monday, April 13th, at 7:30pm, with an opening night reception, tour, and treats. Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 5, 2015

What's for dinner?

chicken marbella - one of my favorites

When my kids were younger, the first thing they would ask me, as they jumped off the school bus and ran up the walk, was... "what's for dinner?" School lunches and brown-bagging it was not up to their standards, and a long, hard day at school meant hungry tummies. In an attempt to have a little fun with them, my typical response would be, "Pork chops and applesauce, isn't that swell?", a line right from the Brady Bunch Show and spoken in a Humphrey Bogart accent, which only served to annoy them. "Seriously Mum, what's for dinner?" It's nice to know that they have enjoyed my cooking, because if they didn't, it would be a drag.

roasted onion, fig and squash salad 

braised short ribs with parsnips - favorite

roasted chicken with potatoes and olives

I've been thinking a lot about cooking lately, as I have been without a kitchen since the beginning of December. The holidays were "interesting" in regards to meals, and working from a mock kitchen leaves much to be desired. The worst part was the lack of homemade Christmas cookies this year, and although my best friend was kind enough to offer up her kitchen in the name of peppermint chocolate chip meringues, the break from cooking was beginning to grow on me. A mini-getaway to the Mt. Washington Hotel proved to be the perfect respite from all the kitchen construction.

bolognese lasagna

My family and I visited some friends over the holidays and were treated to a home cooked meal of bolognese lasagna, straight out of Bon Appetit. I can't even begin to tell you how much we appreciated it, and savored every morsel. Their daughter Emma was the head chef for the night, and even went to the trouble of making the lasagna noodles from scratch. I will definitely make this dish, and I can almost visualize it happening right now. I may wimp-out and choose to buy my pasta noodles, but maybe not??

weeknight porchetta 

When I think about what I might be cooking, if I could, my mouth waters. My visits to Pinterest will have to do, for now. The best news is that the countertops and appliances are due to be installed next week, and the cabinet hardware is going on today, which means that I should be back in business really soon. Whoopie...pies, oh I should make those too!

choco-hoto-pots - family favorite

lemon thyme bars 

mixed berry pavlova

I wanted to share some of my favorite recipes, and some others that I would like to try. Visit my Pinterest board  Yummy to see more.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Monday, December 8, 2014

heart of a home

I'm getting a NEW kitchen, which means that the heart of my home will be changing for the better. 

Picture this scene from Love Actually, and you can begin to understand how happy and excited I am, minus the gorgeous guy :(

Before I begin to talk about the specifics of my new kitchen, I have to acknowledge the fact that there are many things that I love about my present kitchen, like the wonderful memories of teaching (or trying to teach) my kids to cook, garden club parties, cookie swaps, birthdays, cooking class, cocktails and savories with friends, and many (14 to be exact) Christmas parties with Santa and Mrs. Claus as the guests of honor. Although my kitchen may not have the latest anything, and is seriously lacking in the countertop department, it has never prevented me from cooking some great meals, putting on the dog, or making my guests feel welcome within these warm and unassuming walls.  

When I first moved into Forty Four about 18 years ago, the kitchen was one of the first DIY projects that my husband and I tackled. We started by updating the red, white, and blue wallpaper that looked like real tile, so much so that it was hard to convince people otherwise. We replaced it with a black and white trellis toile, but a few years later, when that wasn’t enough to satisfy our taste buds, we decided to paint the dark colonial brown cabinets with a creamy yellow milk paint. We chose wrought-iron pulls by Acorn, which coordinated with the black strap hinges, and a French-inspired William Sonoma fabric for a window treatment and for the dining chair covers, which were piped in red and cream check. Sounds horrible, right? A few years after that, we added a family room and kitchen nook, which helped to expand the kitchen space and create a more open floor plan. This would tide us over, until we could finally gut this bad boy. 

The brass hardware warms this white kitchen by incorporating the tone of the floor
Embarking on a kitchen project is nothing short of monumental, and for those of you who have been through the kitchen design trenches, you know what I’m talking about. I have a tendency to be over-the-top with projects like this, especially when it comes to making decisions. I have behaved myself for the most part in the "keeping things in perspective" category. Maybe this laid-back approach comes with age, a budget, a small floral business, a teenage girl and a post-grad living at home.

I love the warmth of this, with the open shelving, brass hinges and latches and shiny subway tile

A cleaner look with glass doors, without the mullions and muntins
Now let’s talk about the fun stuff, shall we? It has been interesting for me to see how my tastes have changed over the years. Back about ten years, when we contemplated a kitchen reno, my must-haves were inset doors with raised panels, a glazed finish with hand rubbed edges, mottled white-washed tile floors, wrought iron hardware, and stainless appliances.
Fast forward to 2014, and it is clear that things have changed. This time, I chose a full-overlay shaker door style (super popular right now) in a warm white called Divinity, marble-like countertops by Viatera, rustic-edged and glazed subway tile called panna cotta, and a square-front farmhouse sink and country satin nickel faucet, both by Rohl. I decided to use my existing stainless appliances, including a 30" Viking gas range that I can't live without, but splurged a little on a new refrigerator by Liebherr. I can't wait to get my hands on that! Brass hardware (haven't found it yet) will warm up the white cabinets and countertops, and will incorporate the pine tones of the wide-plank wood floors.

 If I were more daring...
Pinterest has been a great (re)source for providing inspiration. In selecting images to draw on, I focused on color combos, interesting mixes of texture, metal tones, practicality, budget, and what I found to be visually appealing. The first decision was to go with an all white kitchen, which has stood the test of time. In 1989, when my husband and I bought our first home, we painted the cherry-stained cabinets white. My husband nearly blew a gasket over the idea of painting wood, and I can still remember him saying, "Do you realize this will be permanent"? Yes, I do! 

This image really resonated with me, in thinking about my plan. The stove is the perfect example of how beautifully the combination of brass and stainless go together. Thank goodness for the designer who decided that mixing metals was a good thing, as I happily bid farewell to the days of matching metals. I was intent on using brass in my new kitchen, since I was on hiatus from wrought iron (don't worry, I still have plenty to go around). The rug spoke to my serious and unyielding commitment to the color red. I happen to love it in every shade, including the 2015 Pantone color of the year, Marsala. It also occurred to me that I have two gorgeous Heriz runners in my back hall, and after a good shampoo and blow dry from Landry and Arcari, why not let the kitchen adopt them? In thinking about the exposed beams and why they appealed to me, I found that the color was reminiscent of my own warm wood-toned floors, which I will be keeping. The main objective when I take on home projects is to consider the way in which rooms relate to one another. Create themes by using colors or combinations of colors to be the common thread that will help join the spaces. 

Heartwood Kitchens arrives tomorrow, and we have done our due diligence in the preparation department. I am very excited and have been waiting for the opportunity to design a new kitchen for a long time. Good things come to those who wait, right? Today is my last day with a stove :(, and my best girl is cooking up the last batch of brownies, as I type this post. 

More to come...